Work From Home may change CoWorking, forever
COVID-19 has completely changed almost all aspects of our life.
This global pandemic along with the collapsing and overworked healthcare system has also incited a complete reorganisation in the concept of remote working. Utilizing and optimizing ‘billable hours’ and ‘clocking in and clocking out’ have so far been concepts quite intricately related to the work culture and whole office experience.
But under the given circumstances, even though a certain number of online hours are required in terms of on video calls and virtual meetings, the focus has shifted more to getting the work done, within a deadline, irrespective of specifically when it’s being done. The constant need for monitoring the process has taken a significant back seat.
Is this shift a much-needed jolt?
We all know of those people who have been against working from home, quite vehemently protesting, that it’s not productive enough, or it is not conducive to the proper seamless functioning of a company. But this pandemic has shoved all of those vociferous protestors, and all of those who had advocated for ‘work-from-home’ days into the largest mandatory home office experiment!
And while in the pre-COVID days, digital infrastructure for working from home, even though present was definitely not at the most optimal level, the pandemic has brought forward this transformation from coworking spaces to more flexible and digital work almost overnight! Many companies as a result of the lockdowns have been forced to shift to digital ways to continue their operations, in order to sustain themselves and survive, in such unprecedented, uncertain times. We have thus witnessed the rise of platforms like Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Cisco WebEx.
We have seen high school teachers who in the pre-COVID days were completely dependent on physical classes, go completely digital and conduct the classes on Google Classroom. We have seen courtroom discussions happening over a video call. We have even seen festivals and celebrations being held online. While this has significantly affected our social life it has improved our digital knowledge by a huge margin.
Office space for the longest time has been one of the most crucial parts of any company. The general idea was that the location and connectivity of the office space were extremely important factors with regards to the company’s productivity, attitude and subsequently their future. It cannot be denied that common working spaces by being a more stimulating environment than the home can help in getting the creative juices flowing, and foster collaborative development. But now, companies have been left with no choice but to rethink how to maintain the “work culture’, so much of which is dependent on the office space. Earlier there was a huge mistrust linked to the idea of Work-from-Home. Many had this notion that it was equatable with a’ cheat day’ and employees if given the work-from-home facility will misuse it and treat it as an additional holiday! This concept now has been turned completely upside down.
This somewhat involuntary shift is not just helping in building trust but also somewhat reinforcing the advantages of remote workforces.
The hard reality is that before a vaccine is made available it will be almost impossible to revert back to the pre-COVID office environment and even after a vaccine is available the transition is bound to be extremely slow. And having had to adapt to the experience of working from home, people have bound to analyse whether a complete transition is necessary at all.
The Current Scenario
In a recent survey conducted by McKinsey, 80 per cent of those surveyed reportedly enjoyed working from home, and not only were 41% more productive than before, but 28% were also just as productive.
While this shift may have been hard for some, given that it's been six or more months since more or less all companies have started their shift to the digital, employees have also settled into a new routine, and schedule, and a new way of working, which surprisingly works for them.
The report goes on to elaborate on some possible reasons for this.
Free of long commutes, the pressure of maintaining social credibility in an office space, employees are enjoying this increased flexibility in balancing their personal and professional lives. Even if you keep aside employee satisfaction for a while, the fact that amidst an upcoming recession, WFH is saving companies huge daily expenses of running an institution, like electricity, travel expenses, refreshments, and in some cases even real estate costs.
We all know how twitter recently announced that they will allow their employees to telecommute forever if they so wanted; Facebook announced that 95% of the workforce was working remotely and the company is planning on making a long term change.
Google also announced that they will extend work from home facilities for employees till at least the summer of 2021. Closer home, Infosys recently declared permanent work from home for 33% to 55% of their employees and TCS has also claimed that by 2025 about only 25% of their workforce will need to be present physically in the office space.
It, however, will be grossly unfair to say that the need for office spaces and coworking has completely ended. Undoubtedly it is not safe now, but at least having the option of coworking is crucial to the idea of community building. This in turn is important for the growth of a company. Other regular issues with regard to network, space, power outages, that come with working from home, in our country another drawback is the accessibility of the resources necessary to work digitally. Moreover, many people are also complaining of WFH fatigue, and the lack of motivation to work.
All in all, the pandemic has opened gates for many companies to reevaluate their modus operandi. Co-working spaces now have to keep the safety guidelines in mind, of being open and airy, allowing for free movement of employees, with at least 6 ft distance between them.
What is thus necessary is innovation in terms of rethinking the workspace and a shift to reorganising office spaces to optimally conduct business that absolutely cannot be conducted digitally should be the way forward.